CHAPTER IX. – HERESIES OF THE NINTH CENTURY. –
ARTICLE I. – THE GREEK SCHISM COMMENCED BY PHOTIUS. – l.-St. Ignatius, by means of Bardas, Uncle to the Emperor Michael, is expelled from the See of Constantinople. 2. -He is replaced by Photius. 3.-Photius is consecrated. 4. Wrongs inflicted on St. Ignatius, and on the Bishops who defended him. 5.-The Pope sends Legates to investigate the affair. 6.- St. Ignatius appeals from the Judgment of the Legates to the Pope himself. 7.- He is deposed in a False Council. 8.-The Pope defends St. Ignatius. 9.-The Pope deposes the Legates and Photius, and confirms St. Ignatius in his See. 10. -Bardas is put to death by the Emperor, and he associates Basil in the Empire. 11. -Photius condemns and deposes Pope Nicholas II., and afterwards promulgates his Error concerning the Holy Ghost. 12.-The Emperor Michael is killed, and Basil is elected, and banishes Photius. Godeschalcus, of whom we have already spoken (chap. 5, art. 2, n. 17), was charged with Predestinarianism in this century; but, as we have already heard his history, we now pass on to the great Greek Schism.
- In the reign of the Emperor Michael, the Church of Constantinople was governed by the Patriarch, St. Ignatius. This great Prelate was son to the Emperor Michael Curopalates; and when his father was dethroned, he was banished to a monastery, and there brought up in all the penitential austerities of monastic life. His virtues were so great, that, on the death of Methodius, Bishop of Constantinople, he was placed in the vacant See, and his appointment gave universal satisfaction; but his fortitude in defense of the Faith, and of the rights of his Church, raised up for him many powerful enemies, and among them, three wretches who were unceasing in their persecution of him Bardas, uncle to the Emperor, Photius, and Gregory Asbestas, Bishop of Syracuse. Bardas wishing to be sole master in the Empire of his nephew, Michael, had either procured the death or banishment of all who stood in his way at Court. He even shut up in a Monastery his own sister, the Empress Theodora, because he could not bend her in all things to his wishes, and then began a persecution against St. Ignatius, because he refused to give her the veil (1). What irritated him, above all, against the Saint was, he had repudiated his wife, and lived publicly with his step daughter, a widow. St. Ignatius admonished him of the scandal he was giving; but he took so little note of this, that he presented himself one day in the church to partake of the Holy Mysteries, and the Saint then excommunicated him. Bardas threatened to run him through with his sword, and from that out never ceased misrepresenting him to the Emperor, and at last, on the 23rd of November, in the year 858, got him banished out of the Patriarchal Palace, and exiled to the Island of Terebintum (2), and sent after him several Bishops, Patricians, and some of the most esteemed judges, to induce him to renounce the Bishopric. Their journey was all in vain; and Bardas then promised to each of the Bishops the See of Constantinople, if they deposed St. Ignatius, and these unfortunate Prelates lent themselves to the nefarious scheme, though every one of them had previously taken an oath, that he would not vote for the Patriarch’s deposition, unless he was convicted of a Canonical fault; but they were all deceived in the end, for Bardas, after promising that the Emperor would give the Bishopric to each of them, persuaded them that it would be most grateful to the Emperor, if each one, when called, would at first, through humility, as it were, refuse it, and they took his advice. The Emperor sent for each of them, and preferred the Bishopric; every one declined at first, and was not asked a second time, so that their villany was of no use to them (3).
(1) Hermant, t. 1, c. 344. (2) Van Ranst, p. 162. (3) Fleury, t. 7, 1. 50, n. 2.
- The Patriarch chosen by the Court, was the impious Photius, a Eunuch of illustrious birth, but of the most inordinate ambition. He was a man of great talent, cultivated by the most arduous study, in which he frequently spent the whole night long, and, as he was wealthy, he could procure whatever books he wanted; he thus became one of the most learned men of his own or of any former age. He was a perfect master of grammar, poetry, rhetoric, philosophy, medicine, and all the profane sciences; he had not paid much attention to ecclesiastical learning, but became a most profound theologian when he was made Patriarch. He was only a mere layman, and held some of the highest offices in the Court; he was Protospathaire and Protosecretes, or Captain of the Guards, and Chief Secretary. We cannot say much for his religious character, for he was already a schismatic, as he joined Gregory, Bishop of Syracuse, a man convicted of several crimes, and whose character was so bad, that when St. Ignatius was elected Bishop of Constantinople, he would not permit him to attend at his consecration, and Gregory was so mortified at the insult, that he dashed to the ground the wax candle he held in his hand as an attendant at the consecration, and publicly abused Ignatius, telling him that he entered into the Church not as a shepherd but as a wolf. He got others to join with him, and formed a schism against the Patriarch, so that the Saint was in the end obliged, in the year 854, to pass sentence of deposition against him in a Council (4). Noel Alexander remarks, that St. Ignatius deposed Gregory from the See of Syracuse, because the churches of that province were subject to the Patriarch of Constantinople, as Sicily then formed part of the Empire of the East but in order to confirm the sentence, he appealed to Benedict III., who, having again examined the affair, confirmed what was decided, as Nicholas I. attests in his sixth epistle to Photius, and his tenth epistle to the clergy of Constantinople (5).
(4) Fleury, loc. cit. n. 3.
- Such was Gregory, with whom Photius was leagued, and as this Jast was elected Bishop of Constantinople, not according to the Canons, but solely by the authority of Bardas, he was at first rejected by all the Bishops, and another was elected by common consent. They adhered to their resolutions for many days, but Bardas by degrees gained them over. Five still held out, but at length went with the stream, and joined the rest, but only on condition that Photius would swear to, and sign a paper, promising to renounce the schism of Gregory, and to receive Ignatius into his communion, honouring him as a father, and to do nothing contrary to his opinion. Photius promised every thing, and was accordingly consecrated, but by the very same Gregory, and took possession of the See (6).
- Six months had not yet passed over, since his consecration, and he had broken all his oaths and promises; he persecuted St. Ignatius, and all the Ecclesiastics who adhered to him; he even got some of them flogged, and by promises and threats, induced several to sign documents, intended for the ruin of his sainted predecessors. Not being able to accomplish his design, he laid a plot, with the assistance of Bardas, that the Emperor should send persons to take informations, to prove that St. Ignatius was privately conspiring against the state. Magistrates and soldiers were immediately sent to the island of Terebintum, where St. Ignatius dwelt, and endeavoured by every means, even resorting to torture, to prove the charge, but as nothing came out to inculpate him, they conveyed him to another island called Jerium, and put him in a place where goats were kept, and, in a little time after, brought him to Prometum, near Constantinople, where he underwent cruel sufferings, for they shut him up in a confined prison, and his feet were fastened to the stocks by two iron bars, and the captain of his guard struck him so brutally with his clenched fist, that he knocked two of his teeth out. He was treated in this brutal manner, to induce him to sign a renunciation of his See, to make it appear, that of his own free will he gave up the Patriarchate. When the Bishops of the province of Constantinople were informed of this barbarous proceeding, they held a meeting in the Church of Peace, in that city, declared Photius deposed, and anathematized him and all his adherents; but he, supported by Bardas, called together a Council in the Church of the Apostles, in which he deposed and anathematized St. Ignatius, and, as several Bishops complained loudly of this injustice, he deposed them likewise, and put them in prison along with Ignatius. Finally, in the month of August, of the year 859, St. Ignatius was banished to Mytilene, in the island of Lesbos, and all his adherents were banished from Constantinople, many of them severely beaten, and one, who complained against this act of injustice, had his tongue cut out (7).
(5) Nat. Alex. t. 13, Dis. 4, s. 2. (6) Nat. Alex. loc. cat. s. 2; Fleury, t. 7, l. 50, n. 3; Baron. An. 858, n. 25. (7) Bar. An. 859, n. 54; Fleury, loc. cit. n. 3 & 4; Nat. Alex. loc. cit.
- Photius could not but see that he was very much censured for all this, so he sent some of his partisans to Rome, to Pope Nicholas, to request that he would send his Legates to the East, under the pretext of extinguishing the remains of the Iconoclastic heresy, but in reality, to sanction the expulsion of St. Ignatius by their presence, and the Emperor wrote to the Pope on the same subject, at the same time (8). When the Imperial Ambassador and the Legates of Photius arrived in Rome, the Pope deputed two Legates, Rodaldus, Bishop of Porto, and Zacchary, Bishop of Anagna, to arrange the affairs of the Iconoclasts, by holding a Council, and deciding any supplementary matters necessary to carry out the provisions of the Seventh Council, and regarding the affair of Photius himself, as he received neither a letter or messenger from St. Ignatius (for his enemies deprived him of all intercourse with the Holy See), he directed his Legates to take juridical informations on the spot, and forward them to him. On the arrival of the Legates in Constantinople (9), they were kept three months by the Emperor and Photius, and even not permitted to speak with any one, except those appointed to visit them, lest they might be informed of the true state of things regarding the deposition of St. Ignatius.
(8) Fleury, loc. cit. n. 4. cum Anas, in Nic. 4. (9) Nat. Alex. t. 13; Diss. 4. s. 3, ex. Epis. 6; Nichol.
They were made to understand that if they did not bend, in all things, to the Emperor’s will (10), they would be banished to a place where nothing but a miserable death awaited them. At first they resisted, but finally, after spending there eight months, yielded, and soon after, Photius called together a Council in Constantinople, which was attended by them, and three hundred and eighteen Bishops, but, as Noel Alexander remarks (11), they were merely the nominal Legates of the Pope, for that meeting did not even preserve the forms of a General Council, for it was the Emperor himself who presided, and everything was done according as he wished, at the instigation of Photius.
- When the Council was assembled, a message was sent to St. Ignatius, to appear, and defend his cause; he at once put on his Pontifical ornaments, and went on foot, accompanied by Bishops and priests, and a great number of the Monks and the laity, but on his way he was met by the Patrician, John, who, on the part of the Emperor, prohibited him, under pain of death, from appearing in the Pontifical robes, but merely in the habit of a simple Monk. He obeyed, and presented himself in this garb in the Church of the Apostles; he was there separated from the friends who accompanied him, and brought alone into the Emperor’s presence, who loaded him with abuse. Ignatius asked leave to speak, and then asked the Pope’s Legates what brought them to Constantinople. They answered, that they came to try his case. The Saint asked them if they brought letters for him from the Pope, and was told they had not, as he was no longer considered as Patriarch, having been deposed by a Council of his province, and that therefore they were there to judge him. ” Then banish the adulterer Photius, first of all,” said St. Ignatius, ” and if you cannot do that, you are no longer judges.” The Emperor said they, wishes us to be judges; but the Saint peremptorily refused to recognise them as such, and appealed to the Pope, on the authority of the fourth Canon of the Council of Sardis, which decrees, that, ” If a Bishop be deposed, and he declares that he has a defence to make, no one must be elected in his place till the Pontiff of the Roman Church decides his case.”
(10) Nichol. Ep. 9. (11) Nat. Alex. loc. cit. s. 4.
- Notwithstanding this, seventy-two false and bribed witnesses were examined, and deposed that the Saint had been guilty of tyranny in the government of his Church, and that he was intruded into the See by the secular power, and that, therefore, he should, according to the Apostolical Canon, be deposed : “If any Bishop obtain his See by secular powers, let him be deposed.” On this testimony, the Bishops of the Council, if it could be called such (with the exception of Theodulus of Ancira, who hated the injustice), and the Legates, deposed St. Ignatius, all crying out, univortliy, unworthy (12). He was then handed over to the executioners, to be tormented till he would sign his own deposition; they first nearly starved him for a fortnight, and afterwards hung him up by the feet over a deep pit, which was the tomb of Copronimus, and dashed him from side to side, till the marble lining of the tomb was stained with his blood. When he was thus reduced to the last extremity, and scarcely breathing, one Theodore, a bravo employed by Photius, took hold of his hand, and forcibly made him sign a cross on a sheet of paper, which he brought to Photius, who then wrote on it himself : ” I, Ignatius, unworthy Bishop of Constantinople, confess that I have not been lawfully appointed, but have usurped the throne of the Church, which I have tyrannically governed.” But even after this act of villany, Photius did not consider himself safe, so he laid a plot with Bardas, and sent soldiers to take St. Ignatius, who, after his liberation from prison, lived at home with his mother, but he escaped in the disguise of a poor man, carrying two baskets slung on a pole over his shoulder. Six light horsemen were sent after him, with directions to kill him wherever he was found, but God delivered him out of their hands. For forty days, Constantinople was shaken by earthquakes, and so Bardas and the Emperor gave him leave to retire to his monastery, and live in peace (13), though he was again banished.
(12) Baron. Ann. 801, n. 1; Nat. Alex. cit. s. 4, and Bernin. s. 9, c. 9. ex. Niceta in Vit. St. Ig. Nat. (13) Nat. Alex. loc. cit. s. 4; Fleury, t. 7, c. 53, n. 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, & . Nat. Alex, t . 14; Diss. 14, s. 6.
- In the meantime the Legates returned to Rome loaded with presents by Photius, and merely told the Pope verbally that Ignatius was deposed by the Council, and Photius confirmed. Two days after, Leo, secretary to the Emperor, arrived in Rome, and presented a letter to the Pope from the Emperor, containing a long defence of the acts of the Council, and of Photius. Nicholas began then to suspect that his Legates had betrayed him, and so he immediately summoned together all the Bishops then present in Rome, and publicly declared in presence of the secretary Leo himself, that he never had sent his Legates either to depose Ignatius or confirm Photius, and that he never had, nor ever would consent to either one or the other (14). He wrote both to the Emperor and to Photius to the same effect (Epis. 9), and wrote likewise another letter to all the faithful of the East (Epis. 4), in which, by his Apostolic authority, he particularly commands the other Patriarchs of the East to hold the like sentiments regarding Ignatius and Photius, and to give all possible publicity to this letter of his. Photius, in the meantime, without taking any notice of this letter of his Holiness, planned that a certain Monk of the name of Eustrates should present himself in Constantinople, pretending that he had been sent to the Pope by Ignatius as the bearer of a letter, complaining of all he had suffered; but he said the Pope did not even deign to receive him, but on the contrary, sent a letter by him to Photius, assuring him of his friendship. Photius immediately brought these two letters to the Emperor and to Bar das; but when the whole matter was sifted, it was discovered that it was all a scheme got up by Photius, and Bardas felt so indignant at the imposition, that he commanded that the Monk Eustrates should receive a severe flogging (15).
- The Pope convoked a Council of several provinces, which was held in the beginning of the year 863, first in St. Peter s, and then in the Lateran Church, to try the Legates for betraying the Roman Church. One alone of them, the Bishop Zacchary, made his appearance (Rodoaldus being in France), and he being convicted, on his own confession, of having signed the deposition of Ignatius, contrary to the orders of the Pope, was excommunicated and deposed by the Council, and the following year the same was decreed in regard to Rodoaldus, in another Council held in the Lateran, and he was threatened with anathema, if he ever communicated with Photius, or opposed St. Ignatius.
(14) Nichol. Epis. 13. (15) Flcury, loo. cit. n. 15, 18, 19, & Nat. Alex, t, 13, diss. 14, s. 6.
Besides, in this first Lateran Council, Photius was deprived of all sacerdotal offices and honours, on account of his many crimes, and especially for having got himself ordained, he being a lay man, by Gregory, the schismatical Bishop of Syracuse, and for having usurped the See of Ignatius, and daring to depose and anathematize him in a Council; besides, for having bribed the Legates of the Holy See to contravene the orders of the Pope, for having banished the Bishops who refused to communicate with him, and, finally, for having persecuted, and continuing to persecute, the Church. It was then decreed that if Photius should continue to hold possession of the See of Constantinople, or prevent Ignatius from governing it, or should exercise any sacerdotal function, that he should be anathematized, and deprived of all hope of communion, unless at the hour of death alone. Gregory, Bishop of Syracuse, was condemned in the same manner, for having dared to exercise Ecclesiastical functions after his deposition, and for consecrating Photius Bishop. It was finally decreed that Ignatius never was deposed from his See, and that for the future every cleric should be deposed, and every layman anathematized, who would show him any opposition (16).
- When the Emperor Michael heard of the decrees of the Roman Council, he wrote a most abusive letter to Pope Nicholas, threatening him with his displeasure if he did not revoke his judgment (17). The Pope answered him (Epis. 70), that the Pagan Emperors were Princes and Pontiffs, but that after the coming of Jesus Christ the two powers were divided, as temporal things were different from spiritual things, and Noel Alexander particularly calls attention to these expressions in the Pope’s letter : ” It is plain that as there is no higher authority than the Apostolic See, that no one can revoke its judgment; nor is it lawful for any one to pass judgment on its judgments, since, according to the canons, appeals come to it from all parts of the world; but from it no one is permitted to appeal.”
(16) Baron. Ann. G63, . 3; Fleury, t.7,1. 50, n. 19, 26. (17) Nichol. Epis. 8.
He then says that the case of Ignatius and Photius can only be decided by appearing in person, or by deputy, in Rome, when both can state their causes of complaint, and defend themselves (18). Some time after the Emperor took the field to conquer Crete, and was accompanied by his uncle, Bardas, who was so strongly suspected of being a traitor, that he resolved to put him to death. He was in the Emperor’s tent when he saw the soldiers come to take him, and he threw himself at his nephew’s feet, imploring mercy, but his prayer was in vain; he was dragged out, and cut in pieces, and a piece of his flesh was carried round the camp in mockery, fixed on a spear, and thus, in the year 886, the unfortunate Bardas closed his mortal career. The Emperor immediately returned to Constantinople, and appointed Basil the Macedonian, who was one of the chief instigators of the death of Bardas, Prime Minister, and as he was aware of his incapacity in governing by himself, he soon after associated him in the empire, and had him solemnly crowned (19).
- Although Photius lost his protector, he did not lose heart; he continued to retain the Emperor’s friendship, and ingratiated himself with Basil. He was abandoned by many of his adherents after he incurred the censures of the Pope, and he then bitterly persecuted them whenever he could; some he deprived of their dignities; some he imprisoned, and he banished the hermits from Mount Olympus, and burned their cells (20). On the 13th of November, 866, the Pope sent three Legates to Constantinople, to appease the Emperor, and put an end to the discord caused by Photius; but they were arrested in Bulgaria by an Imperial officer, who treated them very disrespectfully, and told them that the Emperor would have nothing to say to them; so when they perceived the treatment they were likely to receive if they proceeded to Constantinople, they returned to Rome (21). It came to the knowledge of Photius at the same time that the Pope had sent other Legates to the Bulgarians, to protest against the new mode of Unction introduced by him (Photius) among them, in the administration of the sacrament of Confirmation, and he felt so indignant at this interference, that he summoned a Council, which he called an Ecumenical one, in which he got the two Emperors, Basil and Michael, to preside, and had it attended by the Legates of the other Patriarchal Sees, and by many Bishops of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, to revenge himself on the Pope.
(18) Fleury, loc. cit. n. 41; Nat. Alex. cit. s. 6. (19) Fleury, n. 42. Fleury, n. 52, 53. (20) Fleury, loc. cit, n. 41.
(21) Nat. Alex. t. 13, diss. 4, s. 7
Persons came forward there, and made several charges against Pope Nicholas. Photius received the accusations, and tried the cause, and finally condemned the Pope for many supposed crimes, and deposed and excommunicated him and all who would hold communion with him. Twenty-one Bishops were mad enough to approve of and subscribe this sacrilegious sentence, and Photius afterwards forged nearly a thousand other signatures to the same document (22). He had now lost all respect for the Pope, and his insolence arrived at such a pitch, that he sent a circular letter of his composition to the Patriarch of Alexandria, condemnatory of several practices and doctrines of the Roman Church, as the fast on Saturdays, the celibacy of the Clergy, but, above all, the doctrine of the Procession of the Holy Ghost, not from the Father alone, but from the Father and Son (23). Baronius (24) even says, that he taught that every man had two souls. He obtained the Emperor’s permission to summon a second Council in Constantinople, and having done so, he again excommunicated and deposed the Pope (25).
- In the year 867, the Emperor Michael was killed, while drunk, by his own guards, at the instigation of Basil, whose life he sought, on account of some disagreements they had. When Basil thus obtained the undivided sovereignty of the Empire, he banished Photius from the See of Constantinople, and exiled him to a distant Monastery (26), and the next day he sent the Imperial galley to the island where the Patriarch St. Ignatius was confined, to convey him back to Constantinople, and received him with the highest honours on his arrival, and solemnly put him in possession of his See once more (27).
(22) Baron. Ann. 663, n. 13; Nat. Alex. cit. s. 7(23) Fleury, t. 7, I 52, n. 55, 56. (24) Baron. Ann. 869, n. 49.
(25) Nat. Alex. loc. cit. & Grav. t. 3, s. 9, coll.. 4. (26) Baron. Ann. 367, n. 92; Nicetas in Vita, St. Ignatii, p. 1226. (27) Fleury, t. 7, 1. 51, n, 1, 2.
He sent orders then to Photius to restore all the documents with the Emperor’s signature he had in his possession; but he sent back word, that as he left the palace, by the Emperor’s command, in a hurry, that he left all his papers behind him; but while he was making this excuse to the Prefect sent to him by Basil, his officers perceived the servants of Photius busy in hiding several bags filled with documents, with leaden seals appended to them; these were immediately seized on, and brought to the Emperor, and among other papers, two books, beautifully written, were found, one containing the acts of the imaginary Council condemning Ignatius, and the other the Synodical Letter against Pope Nicholas, filled with calumnies and abuse (28). Basil then wrote to Pope Nicholas, giving him an account of the expulsion of Photius and the re-establishment of Ignatius; but this letter was delivered into the hands of Adrian II., in 868, the successor of Nicholas, who died in 867. Adrian answered the Emperor, and said that he would put into execution, in regard to Photius and Ignatius, whatever was decided by his predecessor (29), and the same year he condemned the Council of Photius in a Council held at Rome, and the book we mentioned was burned there, being first thrown on the ground, with this anathema : ” Cursed at Constantinople; be again cursed at Rome” (30).
(28) Nat. Alex. loc. cit, s. 9, & Fleury, loc. cit. (29) Fleury, loc. cit. n. 18. n. 19. (30) Baron. Ann. 868, n. 38;Nat. Alex. loc. cit. s. 9, & Fleury, cit.